Rival Megagun’s unique concept is a concept that excels it, yet holds it back at the same time. In a nutshell, the game is a competitive shmup with an added twist. There’s a total of three modes for players to take to; Arcade, Versus, and Online. I’m unable to judge the game’s online aspects due to the complete lack of a population, but I assume that at the very least, it performs on a technical basis as well as the game’s other components. Simply put, if you’re thinking about buying Rival Megagun for the sake of its online competition, look elsewhere.
The aim of the game is as straightforward as can be. Leaning on the classic shmup formula, the screen is split right down the middle. The main player occupies the left side of the screen, whereas the accompanying player (or indeed, the AI) takes to the right side of the screen. Enemies of all shapes and sizes will attack from the top-down, and it’s your job to banish them and survive. The goal is to last for as long as you can, whilst throwing a few curve-balls at your foe in the hopes of sending them to their end, before you fall to yours.
The arcade mode serves as the game’s campaign, split into several different character-specific stories. Now, I’ll point out that although the campaign is indeed fun when it wants to be, the plots within are anything but. You’ll always begin by selecting one of a small bundle of characters from the get-go. Once you’ve done this, you’ll make your way across a handful of distinctly themed levels, with some uninteresting screens of cheesy dialogue pushing the story along. Seriously, I’m not sure what’s up with the writing here, but it’s underwhelming.
It all comes off very juvenile, regardless as to which character you select. Furthermore, there’s no real alteration to the fields of play either, outside of the fact that each character brings with them their own pros and cons. It would have been nice to see some varying level design per-character, or even a chain of events that helps to make each character’s campaign feel unique, but that’s not the case here. Playing the campaign with one character is pretty much the same as playing it with the rest. Let’s talk some more about character capability.
Each character comes with their own special weapons and mega gunship boss forms. There’s also some differences to the sizes of each character’s gunship. For instance, one character may have a smaller ship and come with weaker weaponry, whereas another will have a larger ship that’s more capable when it comes to damage output. The kicker here is that the smaller ship will find an easier time when it comes to bobbing and weaving out of harms way, at the cost of hefty attacks; and the direct opposite for a character who has a larger, sturdier ship.
The balance here is well set, giving you more than enough choice to find a ship that suits your taste. Depending on how long you can survive, will determine the length of each level. I’ve played some levels that literally took less than a minute to complete, and I’ve played some that have taken much, much longer than that to overcome. This uncertainty is what makes Rival Megagun so compelling. You’ll blast away at anything that makes its way onto your screen, collecting the odd item and building up the chance to use your specials and super form.
Once you begin to fill your meter, you’ll be able to use special attacks. These are easy to utilize and consist of missiles and bombs that are sent onto your opponent’s screen. However, once you completely fill the meter, you’ll be afforded the option to transform into a devastating super form. When you’re in this form, you’re sent directly to your foe’s screen in an attempt to lay them to waste, once and for all. That said, if they’re skillful enough, they can avoid your attacks and blow you up, returning you to your side of the screen in your prior, normal form.
You can also spawn more enemies onto your opponent’s screen by chaining kills of the enemies on your screen; one new enemy spawned per-five kills in rapid succession. Some helpful items will pop-up from time to time; bombs that will completely clear your screen, repair kits that will return your ship to full health, and so forth. By and large, it’s a simple, yet very effective experience. So then, what’s the drawback? Well, there’s a few unavoidable inconsistencies that don’t make a great deal of sense, that, and some poor design issues.
Several times did an enemy projectile brush up against my ship and cause zero damage, only for another to hit me from equal or greater distance. It’s hard, especially for a game with a pace as fast as this, to truly chart accuracy and precision when there’s no definitive damage consistency. This isn’t so much of an issue on the game’s easiest setting, but switching it up to anything else is a nightmare. It’s also tricky to track movement when there’s a lot of action on the screen at any given time, not to mention projectiles that will blend with the background.
The levels don’t really stand out, but they do indeed provide enough variation throughout. I quite enjoyed the detail on show, despite there not being an abundance of it. The same cant be said about the generic enemy design, many of which look too similar to one another. Some more effort on this front certainly wouldn’t have gone amiss, maybe even some enemy super forms. I do commend the decent soundtrack, however, which does well at setting the mood and the theme of the game.
When you complete the game, you’ll unlock a series of cards per-character, all of which give you some more insight into the game’s characters and lore. You can also customize your load-out, but this is a tedious process that’s achieved in the options menu; via an interface that’s far from accessible and fluid. When you’re done with the campaign, unless you’ve the patience to wait for twenty minutes for an online match, you can dive into versus for some two player local competitive play. Groundbreaking, no, but a worthy addition nonetheless.
Rival Megagun’s competitive spin on the shmup formula is a bold move indeed, and although it pays off for the most part, the game is not entirely without fault. I take issue with the game’s lack of depth, its desolate online component, and its inconsistent damage detection. That said, its aggressively fun concept, its thrilling local multiplayer, and its decent character selection, collectively makes this a fairly worthwhile shoot ’em up.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.